House spending package contains big cuts to clean energy, Appalachian development programs

“Minibus” includes dangerous public health and environmental policy riders, group says.

A House spending package for fiscal year 2018 includes major cuts to federal spending on renewable energy research. CREDIT: AP Photo/Toby Talbot
A House spending package for fiscal year 2018 includes major cuts to federal spending on renewable energy research. CREDIT: AP Photo/Toby Talbot

House Republicans are considering a major spending bill for fiscal year 2018 that contains a wide range of provisions that adhere to Trump administration priorities with cuts to clean energy and Appalachia programs.

In a Tuesday letter to House members, League of Conservation Voters’ president Gene Karpinski urged them to oppose the bill, saying the spending package “includes dangerous public health and environmental policy riders while also cutting critical investments in our renewable energy future.”

While an omnibus spending package would include all appropriations bills, H.R. 3219, also known as the “minibus,” includes four appropriations bills: defense, military construction and veterans’ affairs, legislative branch, and energy and water.

House Republicans said Tuesday they had a consensus on the four spending bills included in the minibus package, according to a Roll Call report. “We do not yet have consensus on the other eight bills,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

The energy and water section of the bill exempts repeal of the Clean Water Rule from requirements mandated by the Administrative Procedures Act. The Trump administration would be able to move forward with its plan to repeal the rule without providing an opportunity for public comment or demonstrating that their actions are not arbitrary or capricious in court.

The House Appropriations Committee on July 12 approved a $37.6 billion energy and water appropriations bill to fund the Energy Department, Army Corps of Engineers, and other related independent agencies. This bill is included in the minibus package.

Funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which helps develop and commercialize new energy technologies, is eliminated in the bill. The current Senate version of the energy and water spending bill would provide $330 million for ARPA-E.

Additionally, the bill targets the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, whose mission is to help support the development of clean, renewable, and efficiency energy technologies and support a global clean energy economy, for a $1 billion cut.

The “minibus” also reduces spending in coal communities where recent economic and workforce development programs have started revitalizing the local and regional economy and offering new opportunities to miners and their families. The bill proposes a 14.5 percent cut to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), which has used its funding in recent years to create or retain 8,600 jobs in the region.

ARC, a federal-state partnership focused on economic development in the region, supports an average of 500 jobs — representing $15.7 million in annual earnings — in West Virginia. Last month, ARC announced almost $16 million in investments in 18 projects to promote economic growth in coal communities in West Virginia and other Appalachian states. The investments are expected to create or retain more than 1,700 jobs, the commission said.

In his FY18 budget request, President Donald Trump proposed zeroing out funding of the commission. Trump also has proposed major cuts to other federal programs upon which many West Virginians rely, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance For Needy Families, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.